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Warning: Do Not Pick Up Sea Turtles on Oregon, Washington Coast

Published 11/05/2019 at 5:55 PM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Warning: Do Not Pick Up Sea Turtles on Oregon, Washington Coast

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(Oregon Coast) – Just like the spring and summer with baby seals on the Oregon coast, this season is about stranded sea turtles and it has the same message: don’t touch them, call for authorities. Even on the Washington coast this is an issue. (Photos courtesy Seaside Aquarium).

Seaside Aquarium and Oregon Coast Aquarium staff deal with these creatures right about now every year, as October or November through the winter is when they start showing up on beaches. It is imperative you do not pick them up yourself, but rather report it to authorities such as state police or proper agencies, depending if you're on the Oregon or Washington coast.

Experts at both aquariums say picking them up not only harms the stranded creature but it is illegal. You could face actual charges.

You should not call 911 in these circumstances but rather the non-emergency numbers for state or local police. If you’re on the north Oregon coast or southern Washington coast, call Seaside Aquarium at 503-738-6211. For central coast and south coast, call 800-452-7888 (Oregon State Police Tipline), or NOAA 866-767-6114. For the southern the northern half of the Washington coast, call Washington State police or the west coast stranding tip line 1-866-767-6114 (also useful for Oregon and California).

For mammals like seals, whales or sea lions, call the Marine Mammal Stranding Network tip line 541-270-6830.

Last year was problematic for the Seaside Aquarium with stranded sea turtles. They had the first turtle of the season come in on November 26, but by the time they arrived there was an unpleasant surprise, according to Tiffany Boothe of the aquarium.

“However by the time we got to the animal someone had already picked it up,” she said. “Not only is this illegal but sea turtles that are cold-stunned may appear to be dead, but often times are not. A sea turtle's heartbeat can slow to one beat per minute when hypodermic.”

This incident was likely deadly to the turtle, with no help available to it at that point. However, most stranded sea turtles don’t survive after getting rescued from the beach. Their conditions are usually too advanced to help much.

What’s happening here is that strong, south and southwest winds push warmer currents farther north than they usually go. Sea turtles coming from California often continue following these, and then conditions suddenly change by the time they get to north Oregon waters and the turtles find themselves in sea temps too cold for their bodies.

Once they strand on these Pacific Northwest beaches, winds can bring their core temperatures down even further, endangering them more.

“They get hypothermic and end up on the beach,” Boothe said. “The quicker these turtles are found and taken off the beach the better their chances are. In the next few weeks people walking the beaches of the Oregon and Washington coast should keep a look out for these guys.”

When crew from either aquarium go into rescue mode with these sea turtles, the first step is a form of resuscitation. Warm fluids are pumped into the turtle to bring its core temperature up, and they’re surrounded with warm blankets. Not quite half of the rescued turtles survive this process – usually Olive Ridley turtles or Loggerheads are found in this region. If they do, they’re sent south to San Diego for further rehabilitation and then eventual release back into the wild. Oregon Coast Hotels in this area - Where to eat - Maps - Virtual Tours












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